Filed Under Healthcare

The First Brecksville VA Hospital

Veterans in the Cleveland, Akron, and Canton areas had fought for over a decade for a veterans' hospital in the local area. In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt answered their call and authorized the building of a veterans' hospital in the Cleveland area. This became the Brecksville Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital, originally located in Broadview Heights Village. It carried the name Brecksville because Brecksville and Broadview Heights shared the same Brecksville post office. The Broadview Heights Recreation Center is now at the site of the former hospital. The remnants of the old VA Hospital can still be seen in satellite photographs of the area such as the tree-lined driveway. In the midst of the Great Depression, Roosevelt was interested in projects that would create jobs and provide valuable public services as part of the New Deal. The Brecksville VA Hospital did exactly that.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) allocated $1,090,000 for the Brecksville VA Hospital. The state of the art hospital opened in November of 1940 to great fanfare and celebration. The hospital created 150 new jobs. Although economic conditions were not as bad as in the early 1930s, Clevelanders still appreciated new opportunities in 1940.

Tuberculosis patients primarily occupied the 278 beds at the hospital. A contagious respiratory infection, tuberculosis, often shortened to TB, was a common disease prior to World War II when it was often called consumption. Fever, chills, night sweats, and loss of appetite with attendant weight loss characterize TB. However, the most dramatic symptoms are chest pain and coughing and coughing up blood in particular. Tuberculosis was also terminal. The Brecksville VA Hospital provided long-term care for TB patients, as they needed to be quarantined to prevent further spread of the illness. Doctors and nurses could only make TB patients as comfortable as possible in the absence of a cure.

Beginning in the 1960s, antibiotics were successfully used were used to treat tuberculosis. Sanatoriums and hospitals that treated TB patients were no longer necessary and began to close. Brecksville VA Hospital was one of them. It closed its doors in 1965 and its remaining patients were transferred to the new Brecksville Veterans Administration Hospital. The original facility then became the Broadview Developmental Center, a psychiatric hospital until it also closed in 1993. The City of Broadview Heights demolished most of the buildings on the old VA campus.

Images

Brecksville Veterans Hospital, 1940 This photograph was taken in May 1940 just six months before the hospital opened. Employing approximately 300 workers the two year long construction project was a great boon to Northeast Ohio's economy during a time in which jobs were still scarce. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Aerial View, 1941 Brecksville VA Hospital was designed to be a nearly self sustaining compound. This aerial view shows some of the hospital's 100-acre property. In the foreground can be seen the hospital laundry and power plant. Photo by Butler Airphotos. Image Courtesy of Cleveland Statue University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Opening Ceremony, 1940 Representatives from the Army, Navy, Public Works Association and various veterans organizations attended the opening ceremony of the Brecksville VA Hospital. Many of the veterans who had lobbied for the hospital's creation attended the opening ceremony. Photo by John Nash. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Kitchen, 1941 A big hospital needs a big kitchen. Kitchen staff prepared almost 1,000 meals a day 365 days a year for 270 patients plus hospital staff. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Opening Ceremony Parade, 1940 A full military parade and marching band celebrated the opening of the Brecksvillel VA Hospital. Most of the marchers were World War I veterans. Many of Brecksville's residents went to the dedication on an unseasonably warm and rainy November afternoon. Photo by John Nash. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Patients, 1941 Here patients rest in the state of the art surgical ward. Surgery was a common treatment for TB in the early twentieth century. Infected lungs were surgically collapsed to let them "rest" and allow lesions to heal. From left to right are veterans Ottavio Massoli, James Spayde and Paul O'Reilly along with nurse Irene Sheriday. Photo by Walter Aren. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Christmas, 1958 Because patients at Brecksville VA Hospital were often long-term residents, hospital staff tried to make their lives as normal and rich as possible. In fact, Brecksville was known for the quality of its patient care. In addition, the hospital did segregate its patients by race, a common practice in most hospitals. From left to right are Oreites Wilson, Lorine Sveuton and Ed Park. Photo by Tony Tomsic. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Brecksville Veterans Hospital, 1964 This aerial photograph was taken a year before the hospital closed in 1965. By this time, the hospital's property had shrunk to 67 acres. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Shwartz Library. Special Collections.

Location

Metadata

Daniel Zamborsky, “The First Brecksville VA Hospital,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 26, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/595.